This week we caught up with Kingsbarns Director of UK & EU sales, Ben Stewart, to learn more his role at the company. Ben has been part of the team for almost 2 and a half years and overseas the sales of our portfolio in 20 different markets across the UK & Europe.
How did you get into the industry?
I have worked on the brand side of the industry for almost 15 years, and before that I worked in hospitality for 6 years. In my early 20’s I worked in a brilliant cocktail bar called Tonic in Edinburgh, and it was here that I really began to fall in love with the fascinating brands in this great industry. I knew that I wanted to learn more and forge a path further into the brand side of things.
I have been lucky enough to work for brands like Diageo, Red Bull, BrewDog, Chapel Down and now Wemyss Family Spirits and I have learnt a huge amount about beer, wine, spirits and soft drinks along the way as well as what really makes this industry tick. I now find myself in Whisky which was always the endgame for me. It’s every Scottish person’s dream, right?
What inspired you to pursue that path?
Both sets of my grandparents were involved in hospitality, so from a really young age I was exposed to this world. My Papa owned a bakery and some restaurants in St Andrews and my Grandma owned the Cambo Arms Hotel in Kingsbarns, now known as the Inn at Kingsbarns. These moments definitely had an impact on me, and when I was 15 the first thing I wanted to do was get a job in a restaurant! The rest, as they say, is history.
What changes have you seen in bars and restaurants regarding whisky consumption?
There are a lot of out-of-date perceptions surrounding whisky, particularly in the UK. A lot of people still believe this is a drink they will not like, without even trying it! The choice of whisky on offer, globally, and the flavour profiles prove that there could very easily be a whisky out there that you would enjoy. It’s a fun journey, so get involved!
Every market is different. We see some markets pushing the boundaries and using single malt whisky in new and exciting serves, while others wouldn’t dare to venture down this path, yet. I believe that whisky should be enjoyed the way that you want to enjoy it. I love a good dram, neat, but you’ll also find me experimenting with our single malt and blended malt whiskies in some cocktails. I’m a huge fan of the complex flavours and they lend themselves perfectly to some delicious drinks.
The important thing for me is that consumption continues to grow, and whisky brands work hard to attract new consumers into the category. We have one of the most exciting products in the world and we just want people to enjoy it, and the moments that come with it.
What influence, if any, has the pandemic had on the way people enjoy single malt?
More people are enjoying whisky at home, as with a lot of things. The pandemic has certainly changed the way we think about those moments when we enjoy food and drink. However, it has also encouraged experimentation and what you will find now is that people will seek out more adventurous drinks and serves when they visit their favourite bars and restaurants, but they will also stock up the home bar with some new brands so they can share with friends and family for those moments in the home.
What do you think the next big step will be for Kingsbarns?
Some of those big steps I already know; and they are a secret! Working for Kingsbarns is exciting and I absolutely love this product, the team, and the company. The big thing for me is getting more of this brilliant whisky into people’s hands so they can join us on this journey!
What is your all-time favourite release and why?
We have had some brilliant limited releases and single casks from Kingsbarns, but I have to say that our inaugural release, Dream to Dram, is at the top of my list. It is the reason I am here. This young whisky is light, fruity, floral and full or character and it is turning heads all around this industry.
If you were able to share a whisky with anybody, living or in history, who would it be?
Always a tough question, and I would look at this slightly differently; I would love to go back in time with a bottle of Kingsbarns Dream to Dram in hand and share a dram, or two, with my Grandma in her bar in Kingsbarns. One of my fondest memories of her was her love of Scotch, and I know she would be impressed by this one!
WRITTEN BY KRISTEN MCGHIE